Source: Courtesy of Havant and Waterlooville official site LINK
Havant and Waterlooville 1 Truro City 0
People will often tell you that the sign of a good footballing side is one that can quietly grind out results week in, week out. The sides that win even with a mediocre performance.
That was certainly the case with the Hawks today. A single 46th minute goal was all that divided them and the team that are firmly rooted to the foot of the table, and would be even without the ten point deduction that undoubtedly kicked them in the privates back in the Autumn.
Remember the disarray then? Maidenhead tonking them 8-0 and all the suddenly not quite so impartial observers opining that the Tinmen would be deceased long before Christmas? Until that point they weren't doing too badly, and certainly the Hawks were lucky to escape with a draw when they visited Treyew Road over the last Bank Holiday weekend back in August.
No one could deny the fortunes of football teams can be decided as much off the pitch as on, so Truro and their hardy band of supporters have done themselves much credit by sticking it out and pushing on regardless. When relegation is a certainty and you've only won three games on the road by the start of the last month of the season, keeping the enthusiasm to travel those phenomenal distances to away games is something fellow fans should applaud. Listening to the eleven stood behind the goal at kick off today singing their hearts out left me feeling nothing short of admiration.
So yes, the business of grinding out results regardless of performance. What fans expect from the Hawks at the moment is a difficult question to answer. If Lee Bradbury doesn't get Manager of the Month a public enquiry ought to be held, but that doesn't mean the faithful can rock up every Saturday expecting to see the kind of 3-0, 5-0 score lines we've been blessed with in the last few weeks.
What the current run of results has done, and we've gone nine games now without a defeat, nine! is give us a feeling of security. We don't panic every time the defence has to deal with a cross, we don't throw our hands up in desperation when Palmer fluffs the one chance the side manage to create. We can rely on Harris and Strugnell to mop up, and we know Ollie will be back in the opposing box with the ball at his feet again before long.
That I think is the greatest gift the current run has given us, and the one thing that I dare to say should be what we can expect from the Hawks now: the ability to unclench, relax, and enjoy some quality football. Not play-offs, promotion or heaven forbid even being the featured match in the NLP (which to my mind hasn't happened now since at least the start of last season), just the reassurance that watching us play is finally again an enjoyable, exciting and unpredictable experience.
There was a light at the end of that very long tunnel after all, those years of drudgery and awful uninspired football. There was the moment we stood on the precipice wondering what on earth Stuart Ritchie was all about, and there was the scepticism about unproven manager Lee Bradbury's arrival. But it's all come together and from the Boardroom down to even the most casual of fans, Westleigh Park seems to be a happy place again.
On reflection I hope the same can eventually be said for Truro some way down the line.
What I'm saying is that although today was the slenderest of wins and not a particularly thrilling game to watch, it still came with the momentum of the last month behind it and the knowledge that all is still right with the world.
Had Steve Ramsey's early shot been any lower the game would have started with a bang and a 1-0 lead after just twelve minutes. He gets a fair amount of stick does Rambo, but he does seem to be on an upward trajectory at the moment, and seconds after almost scoring then stopped Truro from doing the same when they broke up the middle into the Hawks' box.
Truro did manage to get the ball in the net twice in the first fifteen minutes, both times after the referee's whistle had blown, but the Truro fans made much of this in their chants. I remember that gallows humour well.
Perry Ryan took the first corner for the Hawks, but it was hit badly by Ramsey. Truro then messed up a similar effort themselves when given a free kick and Christian Nanetti broke loose with the ball and ran the pitch to set up Palmer, who fluffed his shot. But, as we now know, fluffing shots is not a crime in the new era. At least there are shots to fluff. 22 of them have gone in the season, so we can't begrudge our leading scorer the odd gaff.
Nanetti was steamrolled by Marcus Martin out on the right, and Ryan curled the ball in for Dan Strugnell almost to get a head to. Nanetti fired over, and at the other end Jordan Copp dropped a shot toward the back post that worried Clark Masters enough for the keeper to react to before it went wide.
This general to and fro went on until the break with the Hawks doing just about enough to claim superiority, but there wasn't much in it. Ramsey put a free kick wide one way, and Copp did the same the other. Jake Newton and Sahr Kabba contrived to get the ball quickly into the box just before the break, but it fell to Ramsey and not Palamer, resulting in a weak shot that Payne easily gathered.
Havant and Waterlooville 0
Truro City 0
It was less than a minute after the restart that the Hawks took the lead. Nanetti pumped in a free kick from the right and Payne seemed to have great difficulty dealing with it. Twice it came within his reach and twice he flapped at it with the vague assumption that the ball was going to clear itself. PALMER had other ideas though and whacked it back over Payne with a half volley from about 16 yards that snuck under the bar.
This could have been the opening of the floodgates, but Truro remained busy at the back and organised enough to disrupt attacks. They didn't look like a side that have conceded an average of two goals a game this season. Two more chances followed for the Hawks, the first when Masters released Arthur up the line with a long throw. The cross back into the box was good, but Payne got a hand to Ramsey's shot. Palmer then came barrelling through the middle trying desperately to encourage the ball to stay with him, but the eventual shot went into Payne's legs.
Midweek signing Pablo Monteiro came on for Ed Harris early enough to make an initial judgement of the former Southampton defender, and a positive one at that. Standing a good few inches higher than the players around him he stopped an almost certain goal when Jordan Copp twice blasted from close range. Masters got the first effort, but wouldn't have reached the second.
The Hawks started to get slapdash in the closing stages, and Truro started to get frustrated. That lead to a bit of pushing and shoving, various yellow cards and Kabba launching a perfectly good cross into Barton's Road. Five simultaneous substitutions with ten minutes to go didn't do much to change the flow of the game and even when Truro won a free kick just outside the box two minutes into injury time it didn't feel like they were going to make much of it. That new feeling of security saw to that, and indeed Jake Ash blasted the ball into the wall before the final minutes played out uneventfully.